Politics

‘2 percent’: House GOP still uncertain either of its speaker hopefuls can win it all

As House Republicans huddled Tuesday night on the eve of their internal vote for their next speaker nominee, one question for their two candidates emerged as the most telling: If your opponent wins, would you back him?

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) confirmed that if he lost the secret GOP ballot on Wednesday, he would support Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan. But asked the same question during the conference’s private meeting, Jordan initially offered a less clear answer.

The Ohio Republican first skirted around the question, saying he’d support anyone who could get 217 votes. When pressed specifically about Scalise, Jordan later affirmed he would support him, according to multiple people in the room.

Scalise and Jordan fielded the query about supporting the eventual winner during a roughly two-hour closed-door meeting after both making their pitch to GOP lawmakers on why they should lead the majority as speaker. The full conference-wide vote to choose between the two is set to take place Wednesday morning.

Yet if the meeting made anything clear, it was that both candidates currently don’t have the near-unanimous GOP support that’s needed to win the speakership on the House floor.

“I just don’t think there is a candidate at this point in time who has the lion’s share of support,” Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) said.

One House Republican who voted to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy put it more bluntly: “I’m not thrilled with either candidate,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said. He predicted that “a significant number … 15, 20, 30” people, would either cast present votes “in the first ballot, or be undecided.”

Asked why he isn’t giving high marks to Freedom Caucus co-founder Jordan, Buck — who’s a member of the conservative bloc — replied that he suspected McCarthy had recruited Jordan to run for speaker as an alternative to Scalise. (The Californian and Louisianan have had a periodically frosty relationship.)

“Having people vote to vacate McCarthy and then turn around and vote for Jim,” Buck said, is “a tough call.”

Unity was a key theme of Tuesday night’s candidate forum, which took place one week after a hardline faction of Republicans joined with Democrats to depose McCarthy. Multiple Republicans stressed that the party needed to come together behind a single candidate on Wednesday, even if that speaker candidate isn’t every member’s preferred pick.

A Republican from a tough swing district, Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.), said his focus was quickly coalescing behind a single candidate.

“What concerns me is not having a speaker,” Ciscomani said. “We all want to get this done tomorrow.”

Yet many GOP lawmakers also acknowledged that the internal vote on Wednesday could get messy. It’s possible that neither Scalise nor Jordan get a winning majority in the first round, forcing multiple ballots that may involve some member-on-member arm-twisting.

Asked about the odds that House Republicans would successfully vote on their next speaker on Wednesday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) replied with a cheeky smile: “I’d put it at 2 percent.”

When Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) heard Massie suggested a 2 percent likelihood, he jokingly replied: “That’s kind of high.”

House Democrats are highly unlikely to assist on the floor, having renominated Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries as their speaker candidate Tuesday evening in just seven minutes. In a statement released after the unanimous vote, Jeffries called on Republicans to join Democrats “to form an enlightened, bipartisan coalition.”

It’s possible that Republicans make another momentous change before casting their ballots — deciding that any speaker nominee needs to get a simple majority of the entire Congress, not just their conference. That would mean a single candidate had to get 217 GOP votes, a threshold that neither Scalise nor Jordan could meet right now.

House Republicans formally introduced a rules change to that effect on Tuesday night via an amendment that would require any speaker hopeful nominated by the conference to get 217 votes before a full vote on the House floor.

The author of that amendment, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), said the meeting focused on the “policy” and “direction” of the GOP conference, particularly on spending.

He said most House Republicans were happy with their general agenda but, as Roy put it, “we need to do it a little faster, a little more aggressively on the spending front with the appropriations bills and, frankly, force some of the policy changes out of the Biden administration.”

“It’s not about deals,” Roy added, before alluding to the ideologically diffuse nature of the party’s thin House majority. “It’s about: How are we going to build votes in effectively kind of a coalition-style environment, where we’ve got to take disparate pockets of representatives — who represent people from across the country — and get things done.”

Nicholas Wu contributed.

As House Republicans huddled Tuesday night on the eve of their internal vote for their next speaker nominee, one question for their two candidates emerged as the most telling: If your opponent wins, would you back him?
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) confirmed that if he lost the secret GOP ballot on Wednesday, he would support Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan. But asked the same question during the conference’s private meeting, Jordan initially offered a less clear answer.
The Ohio Republican first skirted around the question, saying he’d support anyone who could get 217 votes. When pressed specifically about Scalise, Jordan later affirmed he would support him, according to multiple people in the room.
Scalise and Jordan fielded the query about supporting the eventual winner during a roughly two-hour closed-door meeting after both making their pitch to GOP lawmakers on why they should lead the majority as speaker. The full conference-wide vote to choose between the two is set to take place Wednesday morning.
Yet if the meeting made anything clear, it was that both candidates currently don’t have the near-unanimous GOP support that’s needed to win the speakership on the House floor.
“I just don’t think there is a candidate at this point in time who has the lion’s share of support,” Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) said.
One House Republican who voted to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy put it more bluntly: “I’m not thrilled with either candidate,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said. He predicted that “a significant number … 15, 20, 30” people, would either cast present votes “in the first ballot, or be undecided.”
Asked why he isn’t giving high marks to Freedom Caucus co-founder Jordan, Buck — who’s a member of the conservative bloc — replied that he suspected McCarthy had recruited Jordan to run for speaker as an alternative to Scalise. (The Californian and Louisianan have had a periodically frosty relationship.)
“Having people vote to vacate McCarthy and then turn around and vote for Jim,” Buck said, is “a tough call.”
Unity was a key theme of Tuesday night’s candidate forum, which took place one week after a hardline faction of Republicans joined with Democrats to depose McCarthy. Multiple Republicans stressed that the party needed to come together behind a single candidate on Wednesday, even if that speaker candidate isn’t every member’s preferred pick.
A Republican from a tough swing district, Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.), said his focus was quickly coalescing behind a single candidate.
“What concerns me is not having a speaker,” Ciscomani said. “We all want to get this done tomorrow.”
Yet many GOP lawmakers also acknowledged that the internal vote on Wednesday could get messy. It’s possible that neither Scalise nor Jordan get a winning majority in the first round, forcing multiple ballots that may involve some member-on-member arm-twisting.
Asked about the odds that House Republicans would successfully vote on their next speaker on Wednesday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) replied with a cheeky smile: “I’d put it at 2 percent.”
When Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) heard Massie suggested a 2 percent likelihood, he jokingly replied: “That’s kind of high.”
House Democrats are highly unlikely to assist on the floor, having renominated Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries as their speaker candidate Tuesday evening in just seven minutes. In a statement released after the unanimous vote, Jeffries called on Republicans to join Democrats “to form an enlightened, bipartisan coalition.”
It’s possible that Republicans make another momentous change before casting their ballots — deciding that any speaker nominee needs to get a simple majority of the entire Congress, not just their conference. That would mean a single candidate had to get 217 GOP votes, a threshold that neither Scalise nor Jordan could meet right now.
House Republicans formally introduced a rules change to that effect on Tuesday night via an amendment that would require any speaker hopeful nominated by the conference to get 217 votes before a full vote on the House floor.
The author of that amendment, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), said the meeting focused on the “policy” and “direction” of the GOP conference, particularly on spending.
He said most House Republicans were happy with their general agenda but, as Roy put it, “we need to do it a little faster, a little more aggressively on the spending front with the appropriations bills and, frankly, force some of the policy changes out of the Biden administration.”
“It’s not about deals,” Roy added, before alluding to the ideologically diffuse nature of the party’s thin House majority. “It’s about: How are we going to build votes in effectively kind of a coalition-style environment, where we’ve got to take disparate pockets of representatives — who represent people from across the country — and get things done.”
Nicholas Wu contributed.  

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